Open Quakers

Dedicated to Openness and Inclusivity in Quaker Meetings

Keith's Story

In September 2017 I received an e–mail from Keith Smith, a man brought up by fairly traditional Quakers, and who is now struggling with the issue of membership. I found what he had to say very moving. The following are his words, reproduced here with his permission:–

I recently discovered your website, Open Quakers, which I found interesting. So much so because the page on membership reflected my own experiences with two local Meetings in different towns.

When I was 6 years old I lived in Winchester with my parents. During WWII they were increasingly concerned with my safety in case the city was bombed, and like many other children at the time I was evacuated to a place of safety, namely my grandparents' farm in Twycross, about 5 miles away from Fenny Drayton.

My grandparents were traditional Quakers in every respect (dressed in Quaker Grey) and spoke in the old way. They attended every Meeting in the Big House (now long gone) in Fenny Drayton that belonged to a local doctor. As I got older I was taken there every Sunday in the pony and trap or the tractor towing the bale cart.

After the war I didn't go back to my parents' home. I stayed on the farm to help my ageing grandparents with the farm chores until I was 18 years old and called up for my National Service. So for 12 years, I was taught the ways of the Religious Society of Friends. When I left the Army I was so busy at my job, getting married, having children, getting divorced etc., and I let my Quakerism slide. Now that I'm old (80) I felt a need to be with fellow Quakers, I tried going to two Meeting Houses but I felt that the 'us' and 'them' attitude conflicted with my Quaker beliefs and it made me unhappy that to become a member I would be 'judged' by 2 Quakers . . . . . who probably had not as much experience of the Quaker ways as me, and I resented the implication they would probably write a report on me for the committee to make their decision!

I will not be judged by any man or woman who considers themselves to be better than me! . . . . .